Olympic Team Training Camp Roster Named

Plenty of familiar names on the roster named today for the U.S. Men’s Under-23 National Team (which doubles as the Olympic team) training camp that opens this weekend at Home Depot Center.

The list includes MLS Rookie of the Year Maurice Edu of Fontana and Toronto FC; Robbie Rogers of Rolling Hills Estates and the Columbus Crew; Chivas USA midfielder Sacha Kljestan; Mike Randolph of the Galaxy; and former Galaxy players Nate Sturgis and Robbie Findley (both Real Salt Lake).

Here’s today’s (edited) press release from U.S. Soccer:

U.S. Under-23 Mens National Team head coach Peter Nowak has called 22 players into training camp at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., in preparation for a two-match tour in China where the U.S. will face the Chinese U-23 national team.

This will be the first gathering of the U-23 MNT since Nowak took the reins in August, and is the first major camp in preparation for the final round action of the 2008 CONCACAF Mens Under-23 Championship to be held from March 11-23, 2008, in Los Angeles, Tampa and Nashville. The eight-team tournament will send the two finalists to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

The team will gather on Saturday in Carson and train for a week before departing on Dec. 8 for China. The U-23s will play two matches against the Chinese U-23s, first on Dec. 13 at the Changsha He Long Sports Centre in Changsha, then three days later at the Yue Xiu Shan Stadium in Guangzhou.

“This is an excellent opportunity to begin preparing to qualify for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, said Nowak. “We will have the chance to get in a good week of training before playing two matches against a very good opponent. As we have seen in the past, the possibility of getting to travel and play in the host country before a tournament is especially valuable, so we are going to take full advantage of it.

Of the 22-man roster assembling in Carson, 20 are playing professionally in the United States and abroad. Charlie Davies (Hammarby) and Sal Zizzo (Hannover 96), are the representatives from Europe, each having earned their first caps with the full team earlier this year. All told, seven players on the squad made their debut at the senior international level in 2007, including Chivas USA midfielder Sacha Kljestan who made four appearances, including three as a starter.

The heavily-MLS laden roster features the 2007 Rookie of the Year Maurice Edu as well as two winners from the MLS Cup-winning Houston Dynamo, midfielder Stuart Holden and defender Patrick Ianni. New England Revolution striker Adam Cristman represents the runners up having posted four goals and four assists in his rookie season for the Revs.

Nine players are graduates of the U-17 Residency Program in Bradenton, Fla., and 14 of 22 players have represented the United States in a world youth championship event.

Seven players were part of the USAs quarterfinal run in the 2007 U-20 World Cup in Canada this past summer. Four players Jozy Altidore, Robbie Rogers, Nathan Sturgis and Zizzo started all five matches for the United States, while goalkeeper Chris Seitz turned in one of the stellar performances for the U-20s in Canada. Additionally, both Sturgis and Tim Ward were part of the squad at the 2005 FIFA Youth World Championship in Holland, where the U.S. opened with a stunning 1-0 victory over eventual champions Argentina and then shutout Germany (0-0) and Egypt (1-0) to win Group D before eventually falling to Italy, 3-1, in the Round of 16 to finish in 11th place.

The U.S. is gearing up for CONCACAF Olympic qualifying in March, with seven out of the eight participating teams having been finalized. Reaching the final round to join Canada, the USA and Mexico were qualifiers Guatemala and Honduras from the Central American Zone, and Cuba and Haiti from the Caribbean Zone. Panama and Costa Rica will play a two-game home-and-away playoff series later this month, with the winner becoming the eighth team in the final round tournament.

The Home Depot Center and Raymond James Stadium will each host three doubleheaders in group play, while LP Field in Nashville will host the semifinals on Thursday, March 20, and the championship match and third-place game on Sunday, March 23.

U.S. Under 23 Mens National Team Roster By Position: GOALKEEPERS: Zac MacMath (St. Petersburg, Fla.), Chris Seitz (Real Salt Lake).

DEFENDERS: Hunter Freeman (New York Red Bulls), Patrick Ianni (Houston Dynamo), Jon Leathers (Furman University), Mike Randolph (Los Angeles Galaxy), Nathan Sturgis (Real Salt Lake), Tim Ward (Columbus Crew), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC).

MIDFIELDERS: Arturo Alvarez (FC Dallas), Maurice Edu (Toronto FC), Eddie Gaven (Columbus Crew), Michael Harrington (Kansas City Wizards), Stuart Holden (Houston Dynamo), Sacha Kljestan (CD Chivas USA), Dax McCarty (FC Dallas).

FORWARDS: Josmer Altidore (New York Red Bulls), Adam Cristman (New England Revolution), Charlie Davies (Hammarby IF), Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew), Sal Zizzo (Hannover 96)

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About Nick Green

South Bay-based Los Angeles News Group soccer columnist and blogger Nick Green writes at the 100 Percent Soccer blog at www.insidesocal.com/soccer and craft beer at the Beer Goggles blog at www.insidesocal.com/beer. Cheers!